Sunday, August 14, 2011

We just got back from our big summer vacation! We traveled to Glacier National Park this year. We are on a mission to take Grace to all of the national parks that we can and this was our first one.

I should start out by telling you about the preparations for the trip. With the incident at Yellowstone, I was freaking out about bears! So I went on a search for bear spray, bear whistles, and a bell for Grace. Well, we live in the Metro Detroit area and those are not easy items to find. I started at Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is a big store chain around here. I asked the greeter as soon as I walked through the door. He replied, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that!” Needless to say, they didn’t have any of these items. I drove to Gander Mountain and they didn’t have anything either. Next, I thought I’d try REI. Finally, they had everything that I needed! Did you know that bear spray costs $49.95 a can???? I couldn’t believe it! But at least we were prepared!

For those of you who know me, then you know that “roughing it” is about the furthest thing from describing me! Just the fact that I was shopping for bear spray was very funny! Well, I called to make the hotel reservations and I called a place that handles reservations throughout the whole park. Unfortunately, because of my school schedule, I didn’t get to make the reservations until much later than I should have. For the week, we ended up being in five different “hotels,” which was not a problem because we wanted to be in all different parts of the park. However, one of the “hotels” was a cabin room. What??? This scared me! I ended up surviving it, but it truly was a little scary.

We went on many unbelievably beautiful hikes. Grace was such a trooper. We stuck with all of the shorter hikes with a rating of “easy,” so her little three-year-old legs could handle it. It took us a longer than most people to go on the hikes, but she did them!

We had beautiful weather for the first few days. It was sunny and in the low 90’s. Just perfect for me! On day four, the weather took a change. It was in the 90’s and the sun was shining. We started out on one of our longest hikes – four miles round trip. Greg had the bear spray in its holster. I had a whistle ready and Grace had the bell on her shoe. We had walked about a mile and a half and the clouds started moving in. Around the mountains, the weather can sure change fast. The temperature started dropping and then the thunder, lightning, and raindrops started. We were almost to the waterfalls at the end of the trail, so decided we might as well continue. Well, when we got to the falls, it started downpouring! Luckily, I had a raincoat for Grace in my backpack. However, I had nothing for me. I had on a sleeveless shirt and was absolutely freezing. We stayed under a tree for about fifteen minutes. A beautiful deer walked about five feet from us. The deer just looked at us like we were absolutely crazy. The sky was showing no signs of relief, so we decided we might as well head back. We were already soaked even under the tree. We took turns carrying Grace, so we could move faster. She’s little, but she sure gets heavy fast as you’re trying to run and climb through trails! We were “soaking wet” (as Grace said). We were filthy from running through the mud. All I wanted to do was get to our hotel and clean up!

Grace and I both had a hard time with the mosquitoes. However, Grace had it much worse. Luckily, I had brought cortisone, Benadryl, and Sarna with me. I was able to make a call from my cell phone when we left the park one day, so I called Grace’s pediatrician who told me to use them all. On Wednesday, she woke up with her knee completely swollen. It was double the size of the other one. I thought it was the mosquito bites, but I started worrying that maybe she twisted it on one of our hikes. I asked the hotel if there was a doctor or nurse somewhere in the park. The person said that there was a clinic in Canada and about a two hour drive away. Arrgh! I didn’t want to drive that far for mosquito bites. Finally he said that there was a nurse, but she was really only there for park employees. He asked the hotel manager if it was alright for the nurse to see Grace. About five minutes later, the nurse came into the hotel. She agreed that it was mosquito bites. She did double-check by moving Grace’s leg around and asking Grace some questions. The nurse told us to give her Benadryl and put cortisone on it. Okay, now I could stop worrying about her leg.

After the rain, the temperature never warmed back up to where I would have liked it. The highs were in the low 70’s the rest of the time that we were there. On Thursday we drove the entire width of the park on the Going to the Sun Road. Oh, my, what a beautiful drive! We started at the east side of the park and traveled west. When we got to Logan Pass we could hardly believe our eyes. The snow was about ten feet deep! Grace was making snowballs and wanted to go sledding. She could not understand why I hadn’t packed the sled. Would that have cost us another $25.00 as an additional suitcase on the airplane?

On Thursday, July 21, we celebrated the three year anniversary of the first time that we met Grace. It is so hard to believe that it was three years ago that we made our first trip to Russia. I will never forget the day that we saw her for the first time in the director’s office of Baby Home #2. She was so beautiful! Grace has made our lives and family complete! We celebrated by having dessert after dinner. Grace ordered chocolate ice cream. That’s her favorite!

We never had to use the bear spray and whistles. We were lucky enough to see two bears, but both times we were safe in the car. We saw a moose, mountain goats, and several deer. It was an absolutely amazing vacation! If you’ve never been to Glacier National Park, it's a must see!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

7 Months Since Our Last Post!

Oh, man! This is really bad – seven months since our last blog posting! This is my fifth week out of school and I am just now feeling like I’m getting caught up on all that I didn’t get done during the school year. I taught a new grade this past year. It ended up being a great experience for me, but a lot of work. It’s a lot of work teaching the same grade, but changing grades really was a doosey!

There have been so many awesome things going on with Grace over these last seven months I hardly know when to begin. She is growing like a weed! Long and lean is the best way to describe her. She is an absolutely beautiful little girl! Yes, I have to say ‘little girl’ – what happened to my baby!

You wouldn’t believe it if you could listen to her talk. She has an unbelievable vocabulary and it just continues to grow. She seems to use new words almost everyday that just surprises us. Some words that are common for her to use are absolutely, actually, ridiculous, understand, accidentally, decision, certainly... And she uses them correctly! What a vocabulary for a three year old!

She is a complete drama queen! She will get talking on a subject and she will go on talking non-stop for five minutes – using her hands to gesture and emphasize all that she is saying! It is so funny to watch!

We’ve been busy during these last seven months. In February, I had a four-day weekend break, so we went Up North to Traverse City. We rented a condo at the Grand Traverse Resort. It was freezing cold, but we still had so much fun! If you asked Grace, she would say the highlight was swimming in the pool. The kid is a fish! We saw some great ice sculptures, ate some great meals, visited a lighthouse in the snow, and went to the Children’s Museum. It was a very nice break!

We have often said how blessed we are with how healthy Grace is. She has never had an ear infection. She usually has one cold a year and it’s over within three or four days. Well, we had a week in March when Grace was really sick and it was so horrible! I picked her up on a Friday after school and she seemed fine. We went out to dinner and she went to bed just like always. She woke up in the middle of the night with a cough and a low fever. Of course, it’s Saturday, so I can’t get in to see her doctor! This continued through the weekend. On Monday, I knew I had to get her into her pediatrician. I ran into work as soon as the building opened and did sub plans and Greg went into work a little late. I got Grace in for an appointment. We couldn’t see her doctor, but we saw another doctor at the practice. She thought it was just a virus that would have to run its course and I was to alternate Tylenol and Motrin. Well, on Tuesday, Grace was no better and I called the pediatrician’s office again. They wanted to have a blood test done. Okay, this is only the second time we have gone through that. The first time was when we brought Grace home and I had Greg with me. It was horrible! I felt so bad for Grace. We received the results later that day and believe it or not, Grace was diagnosed with mononucleosis. What???? They put her on a steroid and told me to wait it out. Greg took Wednesday off and Grace was absolutely exhausted all day. My mom came over and stayed with Grace on Thursday and Friday. Basically Grace just slept in her arms all day. By Saturday, Grace was still not any better. I luckily got an appointment that morning with the same doctor I had seen on Monday. After her examination, she wanted Grace to have a chest x-ray. We then found out that Grace had pneumonia. The doctor put her on an antibiotic. Within 24 hours, we had our Grace almost completely back with us! I took Monday off of work just to be safe. But Grace was doing so well. It was a very scary week for all of us. Hopefully, we can be back to our healthy little girl!

For Spring Break, we went to Las Vegas, Nevada. Greg’s brother’s family lives there and Grace has never met her Aunt Tracy and cousins Adrienne and Samantha. It was a family reunion of sorts. Greg’s sister Julie traveled with us and Greg’s other sister, Diane and her family met us there. It was so nice to have all of us together! We spent a day on the strip, of course. It’s something that you just have to do! We did some hiking in Red Rock Canyon, which is absolutely beautiful. We visited Hoover Dam, which is always breathtaking. Grace went bowling for the first time since there was a bowling alley right in our hotel. And there was swimming of course, always the highlight of any trip. Otherwise, we just spent time together as a family. It was a great trip!

We had a very rainy and cold Spring. We were still running the furnace in May! Every chance that Grace got, she wanted to ride her bike. She is doing a great job on her two-wheeler with training wheels. I’m amazed at how far she can ride. She easily rides for about two miles without stopping and clips along at a pretty good pace.

On Memorial Day, we had both of our families over for a barbeque. We got lucky and had a pretty nice day! Grace just loves her new baby cousin, Wes. She calls him Baby Wes. I don’t know what we’re going to do when Wes gets older. Baby Wes is going to be a difficult name to call a teenager!

On June 15, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary! Wow, 20 years! It is just amazing to think that we’ve been married for 20 years. Time goes by so quickly. Grace loves to make up songs – most of which do not make much sense. But she has been singing a happy anniversary song which is pretty funny. It changes every time she sings it, so I really have no idea what the words are.

We celebrated the 4th of July with my family. We have a 1911 Ford Model T – so that means it is 100 years old this year. My mom and dad had a sign made to put on the back of the truck to announce this milestone. My mom also had t-shirts made for all of us to wear at the parades. The truck drove in two parades this year to celebrate. We were in both the Eaton Rapids and Mason parades. Grace just loves riding in parades. She waves to everybody as she’s holding an American flag. Her favorite part is blowing the horn. My grandpa had a special horn put on the truck that plays “La Cucharacha.” Grace loves to press the button that makes the horn sound.

I have Grace enrolled in preschool for the Fall. In order to register early, I had to sign her up for two summer camps. They are each four days from 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. each day. We just started her first one this week. Drop off has not gone well!!! The first day she screamed and cried and wouldn’t let go of me. The second day she cried as soon as I started walking away. On day three, she started crying at breakfast time. We talked about all of the fun things that she has been doing at school – projects, songs, playground, etc. She told me that she didn’t like the snacks and she wasn’t going to eat them. I told her that she didn’t have to eat the snack and we packed a snack to keep in the car for when I picked her up. On day four, everything went fine because I told her that it was the last day of school for the week. I call everyday to see how she’s doing after I leave, and all seems to be well. She just does not like the fact that I’m not staying there too. We have read the book “Llama Llama Misses Mama” many times. So Grace knows that I’ll be back, but that initial Mommy leaving thing is very hard for her. I know this is not uncommon, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Sleep issues have continued to be our hardest thing to deal with. It is rare that Grace sleeps through the night. She usually wakes up at least once during the night and walks into our room. We get up, take her back to her room, tuck her in, and usually she’s back to sleep within a few minutes. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for me to fall back to sleep! It’s not so bad during the summer when I’m not working, but during the school year, it’s brutal. She honestly has not slept the same since the pacifier went away, which was a year ago! We keep hoping that this is just a phase and it will end soon. But at 2:00 a.m., it sure seems like this phase is lasting a long time!

We are so blessed in so many ways!